The calm before the storm. At 10 a.m., the La FabricA theater is very peaceful. The first spectators arrive, coffee in hand, almost ready for the theatrical epic they are about to experience. “My maximum was three hours. I’ve never seen a show that long”, says Agathe, stretching one last time before going to find her place. Until July 16, the company Le K of the young director Simon Falguières settles at the Festival d’Avignon to present their new creation: Le ash nest, a thirteen-hour theatrical epic. A format they are daring for the first time. “I am convinced that the length is popular. It opens on a soap opera structure, on recurring characters to which we attach ourselves”explained the director to our colleagues from Releasea few days ago.
Simon Falguières is 34 years old and has dreamed of this show for several years. “My mother is a French teacher in a Breton college. One day, she said to me: I discover some children who no longer know the tales. These children seem emotionally lost. This observation marked me deeply”, he says. While he was finishing his training in the free class of the Cours Florent, a teacher offered him to lead the last training course. From this flow the first lines of this show, which he plays with his company for two summers in a row in a garden in Charente and today in the In d’Avignon festival.
11 o’clock sharp. The public enters and floods half of the great hall. A young woman, in a long dress made of the same velvet as the curtain of the theater walks blindfolded. Accompanied by her father, Sarah will be the storyteller. During these thirteen hours, it is she who will set the pace, announce the intermissions, count the audience to see those who had the courage to stay and those who did not hold out. “Tonight we will talk about a fruit. An apple cut in two, into two worlds. Two worlds like two halves floating on the ocean of the jam pot”, she proclaims, standing on a chair, arms outstretched. It recounts the birth of two children, Gabriel and Anne. According to the prophecy, the first will become king. The second, she is already a princess. They do not live in the same country but are nevertheless destined to find each other to save a world on the verge of chaos.
To carry out this utopian piece, seventeen actors are busy on the boards of FabricA. They play about sixty characters in total and put on more than 200 costumes. In this universe, we meet strange people: Françoise, former President of the Republic converted into a fortune teller or Argan, a little crazy leader of a traveling troupe, passionate about classical theater.
To captivate the audience for such a long time, several ingredients are needed. No problem for Simon Falguières who knows the recipe by heart: the characters are endearing, they move us and make us laugh. They sing, run, shout, dance, play music. The scenography, too, never ceases to surprise us. In a fraction of a second, we leave the ornate castle of the king and queen for the theater of the campaigns. Then the cellar of a gloomy hospital for the illuminated paths of an enchanted forest.
Midday. One hour break to eat and breathe. “You can break the fast and go get some sustenance”shouts Sarah the storyteller, sneaking past the curtain. “But stay! The deepest part of our journey is yet to come”. A food truck in front of the theater helps the hungry. “I feel like I’m watching a series!”says Marie, who sits at a small table to eat her salad. “We take breaks between each episode but we follow them because we absolutely want to know what’s next”. In the grass, some take a nap. “It’s tiring to be a spectator. Sitting still for thirteen hours is also a feat!”, breathes Maxime, sunglasses on his nose, ready to fall asleep for a few minutes. In reality, the show does not last exactly thirteen hours, but rather nine hours, not including intermissions. Every hour, the spectator can take a break of at least fifteen minutes.
Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet, Antigone… The nest of ashes draws numerous references from literature to feed his story. You don’t know the 123 writings of Sophocles? This is not a problem. “I don’t know you but my life resembles your works. You exist in me thanks to my own story”, reassures Princess Anne when she meets William Shakespeare, Homer and Sophocles in Limbo. The borrowings from this show are eclectic and sometimes very recent, like those stolen from the speeches of François Hollande or the songs of Serge Gainsbourg.
Midnight. The audience stands up and applauds the actors, who look tired but happy. With the exception of a few starts after the lunch break, all the spectators rose to the challenge. Yvonne struggled to keep her eyes open after the show had only started for about 20 minutes. “I don’t know how, I’m going to keep going”, she told us. “Perhaps these long formats are no longer my age”. However, at the time of the salute, she was the first to stand up to applaud. “Once the first hour was over, I was finally ready for the next ones!”has fun leaving the show. “I really got attached to the characters, it hurts my heart to leave them already!”.
“The Nest of Ashes”, by the company Le K, directed by Simon Falguières – July 13, 15 and 16, 2022 (1 p.m.) – La FabricA – 11 rue Paul Achard